It had been a very long night when Garrus Vakarian finally stumbled into his apartment. His dirtied C-Sec uniform was discarded in a haphazard trail that led to his fridge.

Spirits, he needed a drink.

He reached behind what was left of his six-pack of beer and grabbed a small, nondescript bottle. The stench of the liquor assaulted his senses as he unscrewed the cap and poured a generous amount into his glass tumbler. Adding a couple of cubes of ice, he took a sip, holding back a cough as the potent liquid burned a path down his throat.

He braced against the counter, shoulders slumped, and sighed heavily. It hadn't been a good night for C-Sec. Busting a slave ring was one of his least favorite assignments that almost never ended well. There were always casualties- for some reason slavers thought it better to destroy their 'merchandise', than let it fall into the hands of law-enforcement. Sifting through so many bodies wasn't something you could ever get used to, no matter how many times you'd seen it.

Not that it was any better if there were survivors. They were changed- husks of whomever they might have been. The deadened look in their eyes, as if they no longer possessed a soul… it chilled him to the bone when he thought about it.

They were tipped off about a shipment of slaves being held in a docking bay just outside the warehouse district in the Tayseri Ward. Their raid led to a standoff between C-Sec and the group of slavers that lasted for hours. When negotiations failed, which they always did, he was given the order to eliminate the targets.

There were six total, five batarians and one human, all male. He'd found a perfect sniping spot in one of the security offices next to the bay. He had a clear view of the entire area, enough to where he could count ten shipping containers that he assumed harbored the slaves. Each container probably held twenty to thirty bodies so they were looking at no fewer than two-hundred.

He wanted nothing more than to take those sick bastards out right then and there, but he stopped short. The six to one odds didn't bother him- he trusted his aim- it was the idea that while he was taking one out, it would give the others an opportunity to do something stupid. There were just too many lives at stake for him to try anything reckless, so he called for backup and waited while the other snipers got into place.

In the end, it was six on six and for one brief moment, Garrus thought more people might come out of this alive than dead. Once everyone confirmed their positions, he gave the order. Six shots rang out, and six slavers fell. It was a beautiful thing. It wasn't until the ensuing quiet that he realized how wrong he was.

The first explosion took them by surprise, seeming to ignite the very air. Anyone not already in cover dove to the nearest shelter. Nine more followed.

Ten bombs for ten containers.

He knew it was futile, but sent the medics in anyway, accompanying them just in case there were any other surprises waiting for them. It took them a while to get inside the first container- the door had been soldered shut by the heat of the blast. The stench of burnt flesh washed over them as soon as they'd pried it loose. He barely registered the sound of a medic retching behind him. Garrus wasn't one to be easily disturbed, but even he had to turn away from what was waiting inside that container.

The bodies where almost wholly intact, but where there should have been flesh and bone, there were only charred silhouettes. They were twisted sculptures of ash, flash-burned in the exact positions they'd been in- many with arms raised, clawing desperately at the walls in a desperate attempt to get away from the center of the cell where the bomb must have been.

Even then, with the whole gruesome scene before him, he didn't fully realize what they'd walked into, not until one of the medics spoke, her words barely a whisper.

"My God, they're all children."

He forced himself back to the present. With some effort, he pushed off the counter and topped off his drink, carrying the glass to the slider door that led to his small balcony. He kept a single chair out there and fell into it heavily, squeezing his eyes shut and resting his drink on the chair arm.

He sat there, unmoving for several minutes before a noise to his right caught his attention and he rolled his head to the side to see what it was.

It was a human woman, sitting outside on the neighboring balcony. She had a pair of headphones on and was humming along to a song he couldn't hear. Her eyes were closed, head and crossed-leg bobbing slightly to the rhythm of the music while she nursed a beer.

It was an amusing image and he was surprised when he let out a small chuckle because of it.

He didn't realize that the apartment next to his was no longer vacant. It'd been a while since someone lived there after the previous occupant- a volus politician- moved out some several months ago. It wasn't unusual for the units to remain empty for a bit between renters- apartments on the Presidium weren't cheap and few could afford them.

He was no exception to the rule. This wasn't even his apartment- it was his sister's fiancée's. He'd absolutely insisted Garrus stay there, saying that he couldn't bear the thought of the place being empty while he was away. Considering that the man lived on Palaven and only very rarely came to the Citadel, he was nearly always 'away'.

Truth be told, Garrus thought the guy was a pompous ass, but he seemed to care for his sister, so he kept his thoughts to himself. He'd be lying if he said living rent-free in an apartment on the Presidium that he'd otherwise never be able to afford didn't also have something to do with his continued silence on the subject.

He happened to still be looking her way when his new neighbor's eyes fluttered open and she turned her head toward him. Their gazes connected for a brief second before she gave him a small smile, tipped her bottle toward him and nodded in greeting.

He found himself raising his own glass in response which earned him a wide, toothy grin. In unison, they took a swig of their drinks, both eyeing the other over their glasses as they did so. She laughed into her bottle halfway through and set the drink down, pulling off her headphones in the process.

"The name's Shepard," she said loud enough for him to hear.

"Garrus Vakarian," he answered.

"Looks like we're neighbors."

"Looks like."

"Rough day?" she asked, pointing to his drink.

"Something like that."

"I know the feeling."

He hummed in response. Something about the way she said it made him believe her, but he wasn't really in the mood to compare stories. Not wanting to offend his new human neighbor, he was about to apologize for not being more talkative when she stood up from her chair and grabbed her beer.

"I'll leave you to it then," she said and opened her slider, disappearing inside.

She didn't sound offended and he was grateful for the privacy, so he let it go.

It would be another two hours before he turned in, his mind analyzing and critiquing his actions and decisions from that night. It seemed pointless- he would always come to the same conclusions- that he should have been faster, smarter somehow. That there was some key moment that he missed. It was his last thought as he closed his eyes and fell asleep.